There are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Sing—and singing—remember
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.
Carl Sandburg
(via wood s lot)

(Also quoted by the much-missed Renee back in June 2002.)


  1. I like a lot of the old populist American authors. They seem to be having a mild revival (I see lots of people reading Steinbeck). During my undergrad days you could pretty much get kicked out of the department for reading that kind of thing.
    I wonder how long it will before music departments start saying anything nice about composers who are “primarily melodists”. (E.G. Schubert, Schuman, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, et al). Probably not in the lifetime of anyone on this earth today.
    No one has figured out how to analyze melody yet, or an algorithm for producing melody or distinguishing good from bad melodies, so in the academic world melody doesn’t exist except as a bogeyman.

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